The Back Alley and the Front Alley

Posted on October 24, 2023 By

by Rachel MacNair

When Roe v. Wade first passed, I was actually pleased, because I thought it would put the back-alley butchers out of business. But here in Kansas City, there was an abortion doctor named Richard Mucie who was in fact put out of business pre-Roe because a woman had died a horrific death from an abortion he did on her. I will spare you the details. After Roe, he successfully sued to get his medical license back. And literally opened up a clinic on Main Street in Kansas City. In this case, Roe put a back-alley butcher back into business.

When Poland and Nicaragua banned abortion after several decades of legal availability, the over-all pregnancy-related death numbers went down. In Mexico, states that left bans on abortion had lower maternal mortality than states that legalized them. There were other things going on besides the legal status of abortion in all cases – most particularly, policies giving attention to maternal health – but I would argue that taking women’s pregnancies seriously rather than dismissing them as something that could have been thrown away goes along with policies to help maternal health.

Meanwhile, the image of “safe” abortion clinics is, to my understanding, about as realistic as a Hollywood depiction of war as a drama in which the “good guys” win and the clear-cut villains lose. The human mind is commonly sickened by committing killing in all kinds of contexts – combat, executions, etc. – and such trauma symptoms can show up in terrible care for patients.
See for example:

Memoir: We Do Abortions Here; A nurse’s story, by Sallie Tisdale
Harper’s Magazine, October, 1987

Sallie Tisdale wrote the article from which this is excerpted while working as a registered nurse in an abortion clinic.



It is when I am holding a plastic uterus in one hand, a suction tube in the other, moving them together in imitation of the scrubbing to come, that women ask the most secret question. I am speaking in a matter-of-fact voice about “the tissue” and “the contents” when the woman suddenly catches my eye and asks, “How big is the baby now?” These words suggest a quiet need for a definition of the boundaries being drawn. It isn’t so odd, after all, that she feels relief when I describe the growing bud’s bulbous shape, its miniature nature. Again I gauge, and sometimes lie a little, weaseling around its infantile features until its clinging power slackens.

But when I look in the basin, among the curdlike blood clots, I see an elfin thorax, attenuated, its pencilline ribs all in parallel rows with tiny knobs of spine rounding upwards. A translucent arm and hand swim beside . . .

I have fetus dreams, we all do here: dreams of abortions one after the other; of buckets of blood splashed on the walls; trees full of crawling fetuses. I dreamed that two men grabbed me and began to drag me away. “Let’s do an abortion,” they said with a sickening leer, and I began to scream, plunged into a vision of sucking, scraping pain, of being spread and torn by impartial instruments that do only what they are bidden. I woke from this dream barely able to breathe and thought of kitchen tables and coat hangers, knitting needles sniped with blood, and women all alone clutching a pillow in their teeth to keep the screams from piercing the apartment-house walls. Abortion is the narrowest edge between kindness and cruelty. Done as well as it can be, it is still violence — merciful violence, like putting a suffering animal to death . . .

For documentation on the abortion providers with the best reputation, see Problems at Planned Parenthood – and the list of problems that include some horrific health violations found by authorities at some centers, many ambulance calls and malpractice suits, and most horrifying, some cases in which sexual abuse of minors continued because Planned Parenthood gave an abortion without reporting the crime. When sexual predators are aware that abortion is handy to cover up, then the abortion facility amounts to an accomplice to the crime.


For more of our posts on a similar theme, see: 

Abortion Facilitates Sex Abuse: Documentation

How Abortion is Useful for Rape Culture

The Message of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”: Abortion Gets Sexual Predators Off the Hook

Isolating Women and Encouraging Jerks

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